A few weeks ago, Jeff and I did our first co-blog on our character education programs and how we noticed a need to focus on the power of words as well as actions. (http://tsschmidty.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-conversation-on-character.html and http://principalkubiak.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-conversation-on-character.html) Jeff Kubiak (@principalkubiak) is the principal of Cordelia Hills Elementary School (@cordeliahills) in Fairfield, CA. Todd Schmidt (@tsschmidty) is the principal of Harbor View Elementary (@harborviewelem) in Corona del Mar, CA. Here is the second part of our continued conversation…

As Todd and I continue our conversation, we are magnetically drawn to the power of words, and kindness. #wordsDOmatter is now a focus of ours on our campuses in hopes that the students we see daily, will begin to embrace the power of words.

During our day, both of us have been asking kiddos about #words, and if they really do #matter. We both asked students about what it means when someone says something kind, nice, and uplifting. How does that feel? What is it like?

Also, we asked, what happens, or how do you feel when someone says something mean, negative, or is a put down.

Cordelia Hills Kinder Student: “ I feel good when someone says “ I like you, it makes me smile”! “I get really sad if someone calls me stupid or says I am bad at something”.

Cordelia Hills 3rd Grade Student: “My heart is happy, and I like myself”!
“I feel like no one likes me, and I want to cry”!

Cordelia Hills 4th Grade Student: “I like to say nice things and make people happy”! “When someone hurts my feelings, I want to call them a bad word, but I don’t cuz I know how it feels”!

Cordelia Hills 5th Grade Student: “Kind and nice words rock. I love it when someone says I’m good at stuff or they like something I did” “I want to run and hide and cry when someone calls me ugly, or they hate me or I am not good” “Words are strong”!

Harbor View 1st grader: “When someone says something nice, I feel all sunshiney inside! It makes me feel special, and I want to go say something nice to someone else!”

“See those dark clouds? That’s how I feel when someone calls me a name!” (Clearly, this little nugget has a thing for the weather!)

Harbor View 4th grader: “I love when someone takes the time to say something positive about me. As a new student, I don’t always know if I fit in, but when someone goes out of their way to be kind, I know I belong!”

“One time, I got called a racial slur. It was the first time anyone had ever called me that. It shattered my heart…”

Harbor View 6th grader: “I’ve watched as someone’s entire face split into a smile when someone else complimented them. Words are unbelievably powerful in taking a rough day and turning it into something positive!”

“Mean comments online crush me. It’s bad enough when someone says something out loud, but when it is online, everyone can see it over and over again!”

Jeff: This is only a sampling of what I hear when I speak to students about words and #wordsDOMatter. The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is archaic, false and simply untrue. Research suggest that it takes SEVEN kind words, or acts to negate or offset the power of ONE put down, or negative word. Can you believe it? Yes, the harmful word seems to resonate and linger in one’s heart, getting us to think “Is that really true”? “Maybe I am ugly, bad, lame or …”!

As we break this down further, it has dawned on me that we (schools, educators, parents) really need to have kindness and positive word lessons in our Pre-Schools and TK programs. Then, as students move through the grades, we need articulate the message vertically and continuously, as the exposure to movies, media, news and reality clog the brains of those we are trying so hard to help!

Todd: We spend a lot of time as principals and educators extolling the virtues of walking the walk and not just talking the talk. I know that at my school, we spend a lot of time working on ways for students to show through their actions the importance of being kind to others. We’ve done fundraisers for local charities. We’ve collected cans for food pantries during the holidays. My community takes part in the Angel Tree Project providing gifts to struggling families so that there kids have something to open Christmas morning. There are all great activities, and I love how our community rallies so often to help those in need. But when our words do not match our actions, what lessons are we teaching students? Especially with the prevalence of social media, it is becoming imperative that we spend considerable time working with our students, teachers, and parents about the importance and power of words…not just how they can tear someone down, but how they can be used to uplift and inspire someone!

Please spread the word of #wordsDOMatter and help us continue the conversation!